Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Things I Value(d)

As I sit here thinking about what was important to me at various stages of life, I have to smile.  I will give you a brief summary of the progression of my early "things of value":

Some of my very first memories include a homemade, wooden stool (painted white) with two steps.  This was specially made for me (around age 2-3) by my Dad so that I could reach the sink in the bathroom.  We had the stool for several years.  Why was a stool valuable?  Well, first of all, it was mine.  Second, it was important for many years as I was too short to reach very many things.  It also came in handy when I was around seven.  I stood on that stool to wash dishes.  Yes, I did wash dishes around that age.  Without that stool I would not have been at that sink washing dishes exactly when one of Santa's helpers peeked in the kitchen window to see who was being good.  Luckily, it was me!

When I was around three we rented a house while our next home was being built.  We had to rent because my Dad had sold our prior house (the "flat-top house") all of a sudden.  It seems that if a good deal came along, it was a sign to sell.  While in the rent house, the two things I remember being important had to do with the next-door neighbors, the Whipples.  Pete and Bryan Whipple were close in age to my brother and I.  We spent quite a bit of time climbing in their apple trees, playing in the drainage ditch next to their home, and watching the hogs get slopped.  The other thing was when Mrs. Whipple invited me in to have fresh, homemade bread.  As they had their own cows behind the house, the bread was served with fresh cow milk - which never quite seemed as good or safe as the milk that came from the milkman.

During the years when I was between four and eight, we lived in "the 2-story house".  We moved into this new house when it was just Mom, Dad, Ron (pronounced Wonnie-my older brother), Sharon (pronounced Shawon-my younger sister) and me.  During these years two more sisters (Carolyn and Paula) were born and we will not get into whether or not either or both of them were "accidents".  It was while we lived in this house that I was rewarded with the exceptional Christmas that was mentioned above.

These years were what I would refer to now, as a boy's dream.  Ron and I had freedom to explore the general area, which included an old pit which had been used as a dump many years before and had old, rusty cars plus the normal items a boy would enjoy from the local dump (such as bottles to shoot with our BB guns).  There was a small rodeo grounds nearby where Albert and I attempted to extinguish a small forest fire with our army shovels and canteens full of water.  (No, we did not set the fire.)

To the south of our small subdivision (two square blocks) was the city park which consisted of a pavilion with it's large stone fireplace and the town's little league baseball park.  The baseball field was dirt, it had no bleachers and above-ground dug-outs.  People sat around the home and visitor sides on the hoods of their cars.  If something really good happened, such as getting someone out at first, several horns would honk several times.  I still remember that George's mom was really loud, all of the time - always finding something to scream about.  It was at this field that Ron set the homerun record for Show Low.  It was not surprising that he could do this because, from my perspective, he was a little short from being a giant for his age.  Even though there were only two and a half years between us, there were several feet of elevation.  He grew tall fast and I grew short slowly.  Our Dad was the manager of the Cardinals so that is where Ron played and I was batboy and score keeper.  Don't get me wrong, I did get chances to play.  Whenever one of these opportunities came along, it made me more than a little nervous.  I was afraid of the ball and consequently played right field - the safest place to put me if the team wanted to win.  (At that time teams kept score and there were winners and losers.)  Rarely did anyone hit the ball to right field, so I could stand out there in my over-sized white and red uniform and pray.  Yes, I did have to bat.  But I had an advantage that helped hide the fact that my eyes were usually closed while the pitch was being delivered.  (If you close your eyes, the ball won't hit you in the face.)  I was so short that my strike zone was only about six inches tall.  In little league, the pitchers were not that good and I typically walked without having to ever swing the bat.

We each had our friends - one of mine I mentioned above - Albert.  He lived across the street and was the son of the doctor in town.  Albert and I got along pretty good.  Maybe it was because we each had our own issues.  His issue was that he had a wooden leg.  There is not a lot of things that make a boy more curious than a friend's leg that comes off at night. 

There were five other boys near the ages of Ron and I in the neighborhood.  We would ride bikes, shoot our guns, explore the woods to the west and north, hunt for pottery and arrowheads, shoot frogs in the cow pond, catch polliwogs and watch them grow into frogs in jars on our carport.  We had dogs and cats that had litters in the wood shed behind the house.  We made ant farms in large jars and had the usual, small turtles which only lasted a few weeks after Easter.  We dug foxholes and made tunnels in the field to the east of our home.  We camped out in the lean-to we made from small pine trees and explored the two old log cabins in the forest.  We were in Cub Scouts together, where we learned about how far a skunk can squirt.

There were no paved streets and when you crashed on your bike, you went home with cinders in your knees and elbows.  This happened to me several times as my bike was a 24 incher and that is a little taller than I was at the time.  In order to get started, I pulled my bike behind my Dad's green and black Dodge pickup and climbed on the bumper.  It being a boy's bike, stopping was a delicate matter and required planning - or crashing.

We had all we could need and want.  BB guns with a "block" of shells in the top of the coat closet, bows and arrows (both were fiberglass bows - Ron's was 35# and mine 25# - with $0.25 arrows from A&A Sporting Goods), pocket knives, army shovels, canteens, bikes, a hatchet, Ron's electric train set, and a bunch of friends.  As I have previously written about the cross-bows Dad made for us, the afternoon naps for a wide-awake boy, and the daily enemas for a brief period, we will not go into those again, here.

I will bring up one story that includes the doctor mentioned above.  One day Sharon stuck a BB up her nose.  (Don't ask me why.)  When Mom could not remove it, she loaded Sharon, Ron and I into our Ford station wagon and we headed to the doctor's office.  Mom took Sharon inside and Ron and I waited in the car.  (At that time you were not concerned about every passerby calling the cops on the parents due to leaving a kid in the car unattended.)  As boys will get bored, somehow or another, by the time they returned to the car, a cinder had been placed in one of Ron's ears.  Mom was excited that it was such a convenient situation, being still in front of the doctor's office - so excited that, as I remember, I was on the receiving end of a spanking when we got home.  I still do not understand why I was to blame without a through investigation.

Sorry girls, but I don't really remember when Mom and Dad brought Carolyn and Paula home, but I do remember when they came home one night after trading in the '55 Ford blue station wagon for a "57 Ford blue and white station wagon.  I also remember that around the time I was seven or eight, we got our first TV - black and white (of course).  It had a converter box that sat on top which was used to fine tune the signal for the one station we received from Tucson, off of Porter Mountain, by way of the TV antenna mounted to the top of the house.  I remember the crank telephone being replaced with a dial phone.  Things were good!

Then, again, Dad came home one day after receiving another good offer.  We were moving, but only to a house to rent in the same neighborhood. 

Now, I have trouble remembering names of people, but our five friends were:  Bobby Knox, Albert Armstrong, Kent Bunger, Mike Birdno, and Jimmy Welkner.  Mrs. Birdno and Mrs. Welkner each had Den Mother duties at different times.  It seems that the "short-term" memory is a factor but the long-term memories are priceless. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great write-up. You had me cracking up numerous times.